Tuesday, July 26, 2016


"A UN tribunal has ruled unanimously in favour of the Philippines in its case against China’s extensive claims in the South China Sea. The Philippines first brought the case to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea at The Hague in 2013, raising 15 instances in which it held China’s claims and activity in the South China Sea had violated international law, writes Hudson Lockett. In 2015 the tribunal decided it had jurisdiction on seven of those, though it said it was still considering the other eight. The tribunal’s decision applies not to sovereignty claims, but the maritime rights attached to such claims. Among the issues raised by the Philippines was the validity of China’s “Nine-dash line” asserting sovereignty over as much as 90 per cent of the region’s waters".
The Financial Times. "World News: UN tribunal rules for Philippines in South China Sea dispute". 12 July 2016 in www.ft.com.
"China reiterated it would ignore an unfavourable court ruling on its maritime claims in the South China Sea, and warned its neighbours it would “take all necessary measures” to protect Chinese interests there. In a day of sabre-rattling and veiled threats, vice-foreign minister Liu Zhenmin on Wednesday said China had the right to create an air defence identification zone in the South China Sea, effectively claiming the airspace over the region. China’s claims to 85 per cent of the territory of the South China Sea were badly dented by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which on Tuesday ruled in favour of the Philippines in a case brought three years ago. The court said there was no legal basis for Beijing’s claims to almost the entire South China Sea. Beijing sees control of the South China Sea as a vital national interest, and has embarked on an ambitious policy of dredging islands from coral reefs and rocks in support of its claims."
Charles Clover & Wan Li, "Beijing warns neighbors after South China Sea ruling". The Financial Times. 13 July 2016 in www.ft.com.
The ruling against China by the United Nation's tribunal and Peking's automatic denunciation of said ruling with its declaration that it will refuse to abide by it are all of a piece. It shows clearly and without diplomatic niceties that the ruling clique in the Peoples Republic understand only the logic of force. Legal rulings unbacked by the employment of force or the threat of force are something that it deliberately chooses to ignore. It is this once again verified factum, which shows how important it is for the Americans, the West and its local allies (South Korea, the Philippines, and even Vietnam) to present a united, diplomatic front vis`-a-vis the Peoples Republic. It is only via a consist pursuit of a Kennanesque containment policy that those many elements in the Chinese leadership who believe that the 'correlation of forces' both now and in the future favors Peking will be forced to moderate its policies in its 'near-abroad'. As was recently and wisely noted in a piece in the current issue of the Royal Institute of International Relations, flagship periodical ('International Affairs'), only by incorporating the views of its neighbors, and ceasing to base its foreign policy on the logic of force can China and its role in International Affairs acquire some degree of legitimacy and acceptance from its neighbors:
"The World is not just of China's own making-neither is China's place in it. For Chinese-generated conceptions of world order and Great Power relations to translate into real power politics in the ways envisages by Chinese thinkers, others will have to be persuaded to accept and buy into them. This might prove to be a rather difficult task. The second is that it is important for these debates to remain connected to reality. By this we mean that what is said and argued within China about its nature as a Great Power will be viewed by others alongside the track record of how key Chinese actors utilize Chinese power in international politics. In particular, the way this power is articulated in the country's regional relations might make the already difficult task of persuading others to accept Chinese views of China as a Great Power even more problematic" 1.
1. Shaun Breslin & Jinghan Zeng, "A G2 with Chinese characteristics?" International Affairs. (July 2016), p. 794.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


"The first hours of Theresa May’s premiership confirm she will be a breath of fresh air in Westminster. Her debut speech in front of 10 Downing Street on Wednesday focused on One Nationism, a shift away from the David Cameron years that signalled a more interventionist, possibly softer form of Conservativism. In short, a less austere, more caring government. Appealing to those who feel “left behind”, the finger prints of Nick Timothy, her chief of staff, were all over the address. His piece for ConservativeHome on working class conservatism shows the direction he and the prime minister plan to take. She has wasted no time with the first six major appointments to the cabinet. There were two key themes in Mrs May’s thinking behind these roles (as well as the subsequent ones to be announced on Thursday): unity and Brexit".
Sebastian Payne, "Theresa May’s premiership is off to an inspired start". The Financial Times. 14 July 2016, in www.ft.com.
"As Tory MPs gathered at St Stephen’s entrance in Parliament to await their new leader on Monday afternoon, a choir in Westminster Hall began to sing. The hosannas spoke to the sense of relief among Tory MPs: they had been spared a long and divisive nine-week leadership contest. A period of political blood-letting brutal even by Tory standards was coming to an end. The United Kingdom would have a new Prime Minister. More than relief, there was hope for the bulk of MPs who had previously not been marked out for advancement. Theresa May’s accession shows that the narrow rules which were thought to govern modern British politics are not hard and fast. May is not one of the shiny people. She isn’t a member of a gilded political set. Her success is the triumph of hard grind, perseverance and determination. She kept her head when all about her were losing theirs".
James Forsyth, "Why Tories are so excited about Theresa May". The Spectator. 16 July 2016, in www.spectator.co.uk.
"There seems to be something almost inevitable about the political career of Sir Anthony Eden. With the one exception of his resignation from the Chamberlain Government in 1938 his life has been strangely sheltered. Early marked out as a man of promise, he has seldom run risks, but has proceeded up the rungs of the political ladder in a decorous fashion, proving himself serviceable, to his superiors and with some spectacular exceptions urbane and courteous to his contemporaries and juniors".
Randolph S. Churchill. The Rise and Fall of Sir Anthony Eden. (1959), p. 13.
There is something to the example (one is tempted to say 'fatal example') of Sir Anthony Eden and after him Gordon Brown and before Sir Anthony Eden, Neville Chamberlain and at the beginning of the twentieth century A. J. Balfour. What example is that? The 'curse' (for lack of a better mot) of too much experience. Or should I say: the wrong type of experience in order to succeed as a British Prime Minister. It is not that 'experience' per se is necessarily a bad thing. Both Lloyd George and Sir Winston Churchill had enormous amounts of experience prior to reaching Number 10 Downing Street. Merely that both had a wide range of experience. Neither man spent their pre-Prime Ministerial career in one senior post to the exclusion of almost everything else. That was the case with all of the other individuals mentioned. Indeed fatally so in the cases of Sir Anthony Eden and Gordon Brown. Both of whom spent ten-years, yes ten-years in one senior Cabinet post (in the case of Eden the Foreign Office, in the case of Brown the Exchequer). One cannot tell of course if Theresa May will fall afoul of this 'curse'. She does share with both Eden and Brown tendency to be both boring (at worse) or uninspiring (at best) speaker. All three were and are not 'clubbable' and glad-handing sort of politician (Neville Chamberlain & Balfour as well), being for the most part, private individuals with few friends outside of their immediate family. The fact that May succeeded in winning the race to Number Ten by in essence avoiding taking sides in the BREXIT debate also does not bode well for her going forward. Equally problematic is the fact that like both Eden and Brown, May has surrounded herself at Ten Downing Street the same coterie of youngish aides who were with her at her departmental office. Aides who are both violently loyal to their chief, but unpopular with the rest of Whitehall 1. This is of course all in the possible future and mere conjecture. And it could very well be that six plus years at the Home Office is not as dangerous to a future prime minister's political skills as say being either Chancellor or Foreign Secretary for ten plus years. To-day Prime Minister May is the toast of the town, at least Westminster. Hopefully this will continue to be so. The portents for those who known their Prime Ministerial history is unfortunately, not the very best. Or as the ancient historian Tacitus once put it about the Emperor Galba: "Omnium consensu capax imperii nisi imperasset".
1. James Forsyth, "She doesn't do likes: Theresa May won't be exciting but she may well be radical". The Spectator. 16 July 2016, p. 12; George Parker, Kate Allen and Oliver Ralph, "Nick Timothy: Theresa May’s political ‘brain’". The Financial Times. 15 July 2016, in www.ft.com. As per the remarks of the British political commentator Bruce Anderson: "Mrs May cannot do everything herself. She will have to learn to trust her ministers. Central strategic direction from No.10: essential. Attempts to micro-manage every aspect of policy: futile and fatal. Assuming that she does want efficiency, she has made life unnecessarily hard for herself by two important appointments: Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, her new chiefs of staff. Michael Fraser, who eventually became Lord Fraser of Kilmorack, ran the Tory Party’s operations for a generation. He had a famous dictum: the back-room boys should stay in the back room. That is not how Miss Hill and Mr Timothy work. They will see enemies everywhere. When they do not find them, they will create them". See: Bruce Anderson, "Theresa May’s team is not built to last". Reaction. 18 July 2016, in http://reaction.life/theresa-mays-team-not-built-last/

Friday, July 15, 2016


"Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on his supporters to take to the streets and airports to fight off an ongoing attempted coup that’s left Turks unsure of who was in charge of the country. President Erdogan, whose location was unclear, used a video livestream on a mobile phone to respond to the military group which had two hours earlier seized key points in the capital Ankara and the main city of Istanbul. His appearance added to the confusion, without information on his whereabouts, and the reverberating counterclaims from the unidentified military officials who appeared to have taken control of television and radio stations and sent fighter jets into the skies and rolled tanks into the streets of Ankara, the capital.... He added that the “chain of command has been violated. This is a step against the higher ranks, and the judiciary will swiftly respond to this attack.” The military, which has toppled the government at least three times since 1960, said earlier that it had taken over the “administration of the country, to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and the general security that was damaged.” But the identity of those in the military who had issued the statement, and earlier ordered tanks into the streets and closed the major bridges connecting Istanbul’s Asian and European sides, remained unclear. Other statements read out on television channels were attributed to a previously unknown group called the Council for Peace in the Homeland.... “This looks like a well executed coup for the moment, though only by lower ranking military officials,” said Mujtaba Rahman, at the Eurasia Group. “The way Erdogan wants to resolve this is by getting civilians out to pressure the military, but this clearly risks seriously raising the stakes in the confrontation.” Mr Erdogan made his comments on CNN Turk, a private television channel, via the FaceTime video app on an iPhone held up by the newsreader. A journalist for the state broadcaster, who asked not to be named, said it had been “evacuated by the military” when its news broadcast was about to begin shortly before 8pm GMT. “They confiscated everyone’s phone on the way out,” the reporter said. “We all thought it was a hijacking of a plane at first [following rumours of an attack on Ataturk airport]. Everyone went home and as things unfolded, all TRT buildings were being taken over by the military at the same time.” As it took control of the state broadcaster, the military group announced a general curfew, and the highest level of security at ports, airports, borders. In Istanbul, Gazientep, and Erzurum, thousands of people were reported on the streets, but there were no credible reports of widespread violence. There were conflicting accounts of hostilities — the state-run newswire, which has been reportedly occupied by coup members, said a helicopter killed 17 police officers, while a source in the President’s office said a F16 had shot down a helicopter. Gunfire could be heard in the streets of Istanbul, with local mosques calling citizens on to the streets, and reports of raids on automatic teller machines amid the chaos."
Mehul Srivastava, Laura Pitel, David O’Byrne, Funja Guler, Demetri Sevastopulo, Joe Rennison, "Turkey’s Erdogan calls citizens to streets." The Financial Times. 15 July 2016 in www.ft.com.
The coup d'état in Turkey to-day is certainly a bit of a surprise. While there was in the past (circa 2006-2010) rumors of possible military plans for a takeover, there has not been anything resembling the same in the past five to six years. With the guiding assumption that the AK government of former premier, and now President Erdogan having in essence de-fanged the armed forces. Such now appears not to be the case. As far as one can make out, the coup leaders appear to be lower level officers (Brigadier Generals and below) rather than anyone in the upper reaches of the military hierarchy. In itself this appears to be at variance with the past history of Turkish coups, wherein the military as an institutional and coherent bloc, would intervene to overthrow a particular government. The other change from coups in the past, was that there is nothing resembling a societal wish for any such military intervention, per contra to both past examples in Turkey (especially those of 1960 and 1980) and more recent examples of both Egypt and Thailand. Without being anyway an 'expert' on Turkey, my own surmise for what it is worth is that this coup will fail. If not to-day then tomorrow, if not tomorrow then by no later than five to seven days. Turkey is (whatever else one may say of her, and I am the very opposite of a Turcophile to put it mildly), somewhat beyond the stage as a society wherein the armed forces can tout `a coup overthrow an existing government, which while semi-authoritarian and not wildly popular, has for the most part some degree of popular legitimacy. The example of Spain in 1981 immediately comes to mind. How matters will play out is of course unknowable at this time. It could be that some variant of 'people power' will force the armed forces back into its barracks and little or no blood will be shed. It is only if there is a sustained and consistent employment by either side of force that the chances that this unfortunate and unnecessary (whatever one thinks about the egregious President Erdogan and his hideous policies) coup will be foiled. The world has enough problems on is hands, especially Europe and its immediate neighborhood for the Turks to add to the mix.

Friday, July 08, 2016


The UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted....Military action at that time was not a last resort....It is now clear that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments. They were not challenged and they should have been....Judgments were presented with a certainty that was not justified....We do not agree that hindsight is required. The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuits of its interests, regional instability, and al-Qaeda activity in Iraq were each explicitly identified before the invasion.”
Henry Mance and James Blitz, "Chilcot report: the key conclusions". The Financial Times. 6 July 2016, in www.ft.com.
"Such a high price is already paid for this war-in diplomatic blunders, misunderstandings and increasing number of human bodies that one could only hope that it was not for nothing. Personally, I feel that I have miscalculated - I was thinking that the plan for the post war Iraq was rubbish but reality intervened and corrected (and continues to correct) my calculation and I now see that this so called 'plan' (building democracy out of thin air with a [sic] help of 200 Iraqi-Americans) is rubbish triple time. I have no doubt that American forces will take Baghdad (time and price - that's another story). But I do not know what will be accepted as American victory in Iraq in a month or better yet a year from today. Would it be a fact that only 47% of Iraqi territory would be controlled by Muslim fanatics? Or/and that Turkish army is only controlling 5% Or that Iranian sponsored military groups are only operating in a 'small' territory in southeast?...I had some hope that there would be something positive to slightly upset the high price paid - for example clarity of vision or swiftness in the execution of established goal. As you know one of my comforts was to think that the people who are intrusted [sic] with making all sorts of high-level plans are smarter than me. It is really unpleasant to discover that they are not".
Valery Olegovitch Avtukh, Private correspondence with Charles Coutinho dated the 2nd of April 2003.
Of course Sir John Chilcot was indeed correct. The Iraq War (or 'Second Gulf War')which began on the 20th of March of 2003 was launched needlessly and post-facto without reason insofar as Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction. It was evident at the time, and the Chilcot report clearly lays bare the fact that the Bush regime with the help and assistance (admittedly more rhetorical than material) of British Prime Minister Blair, was hell bent upon a policy of regime change in Iraq and that the push at the United Nations to obtain Security Council approval of the proposed military campaign was merely intended as a fig-leaf pur et simple. And of course it was also evident at that time (as seen by the ultra-wise comments of my friend and correspondent above), that the 'plan' for post-war Iraq was (in Valery O. Avtukh's classical formulation) 'rubbish triple time'. And as time went on, the situation in Iraq, to everyone's amazement at the time became worse and worse as any concept of the Americans and their allies being able to establish anything approaching the successes of the post-bellum projects of Germany, Italy and Japan in 1945 were quickly cast aside. Although the numbers of dead and wounded and the civil trauma in American (and for that matter British) society do not approach anything near what occurred in Indo-China between 1965 and 1975, the psychological and strategic effects of the disaster that was the Second Gulf War for the Americans and their allies is a very close second to the American debacle in Vietnam. With the rise of ISIS in Iraq (admittedly not in the case of Syria) directly attributable to the overthrow of the Baathist regime by the Americans and the inability of the post-bellum Iraqi regimes to establish anything like consensual governance embracing the entirety of Iraq's population. With there being no end in sight to when anything akin to a normative society ethos returning to Iraq anytime soon.